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UAE and Israel Agreement – Ripples in the Muslim World

Published Aug 19, 2020
Updated Aug 19, 2020

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to establish diplomatic relations. The historic agreement was announced by United States President Donald Trump, as a marker of his successful diplomatic deal making gladdening the hearts of his large pro Israel support base ahead of the American Presidential Elections on November 03 this year.

UAE is the third Arab country to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt’s 1979 peace agreement and Jordan’s 1994 treaty. The case of UAE is however different and is driven by economic and moderation impulses rather than that of security – which was the driver for other Arab states who have a common border with Israel and have a series of wars with the country.

The high pitched agreement between the UAE and Israel is set to take the Muslim World by storm and will create multiple ripples.

Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, the nonagenarian leader  rightly sounded a warning indicating that accord “would divide the Muslim world into warring factions, and that “Israelis will add fuel to the fire,” as excerpted by the Strait Times published from Singapore.

For countries which have a large Muslim population as India and have supported the Palestinian cause the decision was not difficult. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs Official Spokesperson commenting on full normalisation of relations between UAE and Israel said on August 14, “India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is its extended neighbourhood. In that context, we welcome the full normalization of ties between UAE and Israel. Both nations are key strategic partners of India. India continues its traditional support for the Palestinian cause. We hope to see early resumption of direct negotiations to find an acceptable two-state solution’.

India has established the right balance in relations with Palestine.

However for many Islamic countries the decision of normalizing relations posed a major challenge of their commitment to the Palestinian cause. Thus even moderate Islamic states as Indonesia with the largest Muslim population in the world did not respond to the development and continued to remain tight lipped.

However others in the Islamic World were vocal.

Al Jazeera reported that Turkey’s hard line regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut off bilateral relations with the UAE. Al Jazeera quoted the Turkish foreign ministry saying history would never forgive the UAE’s “hypocritical behaviour” in agreeing such a deal, which recasts the order of Middle East politics.

Iran which sees Israel as a key ally of the United States was not unexpectedly strongly opposed to the agreement.

Pakistan did not have the luxury of Turkey to announce a break in the relations with the UAE given the economic dependency on the Gulf states in many ways.

On the UAE and Israel relations, Prime Minister Imran Kha took shelter of the legacy of founder Mohammad Al  Jinnah stating, “The Quaid-i-Azam had said in 1948 that Pakistan could not recognise Israel unless it gave freedom to Palestinians. If we recognise Israel and ignore tyranny faced by the Palestinians, we will have to give up (the cause of) Kashmir as well, and this we cannot do.”

As more Gulf Arab states join with the UAE possibly including Saudi Arabia with reports that Oman and Bahrain have plans to normalize relations, the Muslim World is expected to be shaken by these developments in the months ahead.

While the signal of lack of solidarity with the Palestinians whose sense of dispossession is likely to increase as more nations join the Israeli diplomatic bandwagon is sad, pragmatic Muslim leaders as the UAEs Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman are overcoming the hypocrisy over Israel’s status for years.